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Charles De Gaulle, the International System, and the Existential Difference (Hardcover) (Graham O'dwyer)
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This innovative account of Charles de Gaulle as a thinker and influential statesmen offers an interpretation that transcends the traditional nationalistic image that prevails in the Anglo-American popular imagination. Centring on the way in which de Gaulle understood nations to be individuals the author frames his argument by rationalising de Gaulle’s sense of the international system as an expression of his hyper-sensitivity to the past and the existential movement that flowed as an intellectual undercurrent throughout early and mid-twentieth century France. Graham O’Dwyer argues that de Gaulle’s historically-imbued ethno-symbolic interpretation of nation, coupled with his implicit existentialism in the Sartrean tradition, allowed him to separate ‘nation’ from ‘state’ and the ‘ephemeral’ from the ‘enduring’ when he looked to the international system and the communist states of the East in particular. In turn this provided him with a highly distinctive understanding of how and why certain Cold War states acted as they did. While significant in its own right this interpretation of de Gaulle’s foreign policy is also useful to explore given that the distinctions that emerge from this contributed greatly to the discord that existed between Gaullist France and other Western states during the 1960s.